Movie Review: Shazam! (2019)

The seventh instalment in the thus-far rocky DC Comics Extended Universe (DCEU), Shazam! is directed by David Sandberg, and based on the comic series, and starring the superhero of the same name (yes, formerly Captain Marvel, not the Marvel Comics one, blah blah blah). Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a foster-home-hopping youth who is gifted magical powers by an ancient wizard, allowing him to transform into a super-man (Zachary Levi) by uttering the wizard’s name, Shazam. Soon, the villainous Dr Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) discovers Billy’s new powers, and wants them for himself.

+ Levi is just perfect as Shazam himself. His childlike glee at being a superhero (probably in real life, too) shines so brightly in this film. Angel as the young Billy Batson is good, too, as is Batson’s best friend and foster brother, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer). The chemistry between Freddy and young and adult Batson is great, and you can really believe they are friends/family
+ Mark Strong is just excellent as main antagonist, Dr Sivana. Strong is one of my my most-watched, and most-liked actors, and though he has a history of playing bad guys, I think his turn here may be one of my favourites – an early scene in a boardroom quickly turns the dial to 11 in terms of villainy. The sinister septet of CGI Seven Deadly Sins make for great lackeys, including some of which that are genuinely quite unsettling (Gluttony and Wrath, in particular, come to mind)
+ the superhero CGI is surprisingly enjoyable. There is real weight behind Shazam’s movement, including his flight and/or super speed. The Seven Deadly Sins CGI is never too goofy (though some action moments do suffer from a bit of quality dipping)
+ there is a lot of comedy, most of which I found to be very on the mark – the gas station scene from the trailers is a particular joy when seen in full. Despite the aforementioned scares, this is a mostly bloodless-violent movie, focusing more on teamwork, family and being a good person. Wholesome is one word for it

> I’ve always loved the dynamic of Billy Batson/Shazam being the only one to live in both the civilian and the superhero world, as made especially poignant in Kingdom Come, one of my favourite comic miniseries. I hope to see it in any future solo or group outings
> comic book movie credits are always good, but these ones are probably the best so far

Should you see this film: I really enjoyed this movie. Zachary Levi hit it out of the park here, and Strong’s Dr Sivana was a real threat, unlike most comic book movie villains. The comedy, effects and overall story are full of things to make you smile. If the DCEU treated Superman this way, maybe things will be looking up sooner rather than later.

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